Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Standardized Tests: Good or Bad?

One immensely important issue in education to date is the use of standardized tests enacted by the No Child Left Behind Act. The act was passed in 2001 by President George W. Bush, and has reformed the education system greatly. The act has put more emphasis on what it takes to be considered a “highly qualified teacher” and incorporated standardized testing as a way to test students’ knowledge. While some praise the No Child Left Behind Act, there is also a great deal of criticism about it.
First of all, No Child Left Behind Act’s standardized testing is a damaging asset rather than beneficial, because it restricts students’ education instead of improving; just the opposite of what the purpose is suppose to be. The reason for this is that because of standardized testing teachers have transformed their style of teaching to “teach to the test” rather than teach kids the curriculum of the course. Teachers will spend the entire class teaching kids how to pass the test, instead of helping them develop critical thinking skills and understanding concepts to master the material. This creates students who just spit out the information they learned like robots, rather than making them problem-solvers and more educated people. Also, the test focuses strictly on the core subjects (math, reading, writing, etc.) and completely disregards the arts. Not all students excel in the core subjects, but are more in tuned with the arts. So does not fitting the model make one student more incompetent than another?  
Standardized testing doesn’t just hurt students either, it hurts teachers. Standardized tests are ways to reflect how well a teacher is doing his/her job. However, this is extremely unfair because one teacher wouldn’t be responsible for a student’s entire education. Conversely, multiple people would be involved including previous teachers, parents, and even the student his/herself.  Here is a quick video that perfectly summarizes how critics of standardized test feel:
There are a lot of larger implications that can occur if the issue of using standardized tests to determine the intelligence of student is ignored. As explained in this article, standardized tests could cause separation of students in a school district in order to improve the school’s test score as a whole. For example, the school could remove kids they think might perform poorly, such as the “developmentally disabled” and English as Second Language students, from having to take the test to ensure a high test score average. In addition, the test could produce self-doubt by labeling a student’s intelligence. Some students are just better test takers than others, and being able to get proficient on a standardized test doesn’t prove whether someone is more intelligent, it simply determines who is a better test taker. Lastly, the tests put a tremendous amount of stress on teachers. Teacher’s jobs are threatened by the performance of their students, solely based on one test. This could lead to the firing of many excellent educators because some students couldn’t answer all the questions in a specific amount of time, not because they didn’t know how to answer the questions. Overall, standardized test aren't helpful or necessary, the effects are more hurtful.

A cartoon depicting what standardized testing considers important.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wait, How Many Toes?!

In my SEDU 183 class, my instructor was attempting to learn all of our names before we left class. To help him, he asked us to say something interesting about ourselves when he called our names. When he called my name I said, "This isn't really about me, but my dad has six toes on each foot." My teacher replied by asking me to post a picture of it on my blog, so that's what I am doing. Enjoy gazing at my dad's extra phalange:)

My dad's six-toed foot.

What's All the Fuss About Twitter?

Almost two years ago I created a Twitter account. My soul reason for doing so was just because everyone else was getting one. When I created my account, I didn't like Twitter at all. The layout was confusing, and I never knew if I was making a new tweet, posting something on someone’s twitter, or re-tweeting, what ever that meant. Also, I never knew the purpose of adding hash tags; to me they were just an annoyance at the end of a tweet. However, after discussing Twitter in my SEDU 183 class, I am now more willing to give Twitter a chance. What changed my mind was realizing the potential Twitter can do for education.

My intentions when joining the Twitter world was just to use it as any other social networking site. I just wanted to follow all my celebrity idols and friends. Then my SEDU 183 instructor informed my class about how he uses Twitter, which was quite brilliant actually. He uses Twitter to follow other educators and share ideas and tools to use in the classroom and better enhance the learning experience. I think Twitter could be a very useful to as both a teacher and a student. As a teacher I could use Twitter as a tool to remind students about homework assignments and share websites that could be helpful with their studies. As for being a student, Twitter could be very helpful. I could follow educators in my field of study, and other students in my field of study to obtain helpful resources to be the best teacher I can be in the future, and to learn about new websites that could help me in my studies.

Now that I realize Twitter can be used for more than just a website to keep in touch with friends, I am willing to use it more often and give it a second chance. I'm not sure how often I'll use it, or even if I'll continue to tweet after my class is over, but what I do know is that I am going to try my best and be open to the possibilities Twitter offers. I am excited to see how Twitter will benefit me, and hope that it is an experience I find worthwhile and will continue to practice in the future.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Power of PowerPoint

For my SEDU 183 class, I was asked to create part of a lesson plan using PowerPoint, that met objectives I generated from a standard I selected at PennDot. Before this project I have used PowerPoint an awful lot, so I felt comfortable that I would be able to produce a brilliant project in a short amount of time. However, as I was creating my project I realized there were numerous tools and functions PowerPoint had to make my PowerPoint more interactive I never knew existed. One key feature I found very useful, yet frustrating, was hyper linking. Using a hyperlink was risky because sometimes the hyperlink wouldn’t work properly, which would lead to frustration, but when it was used successfully it made the PowerPoint much more interesting and interactive.
Rewinding back in time, before actually making the PowerPoint, is where my first complication came into place: deciding which standard I wanted to use. I wanted to make sure I chose a standard I could make a fun, interactive homework assignment from. After choosing the perfect standard I then had to make objectives, which was probably the easiest part of the project.
After the PowerPoint was complete, came the last part of the process: presenting our project to our peers. This part of the process was my favorite, because I enjoyed observing other’s projects and evaluating them on how well put together it was. Also, unlike other people, I don’t mind speaking in front of people so I enjoyed sharing my PowerPoint with them, and getting their feedback.
Overall, I found this project to be enjoyable. Although there were a few problems, I believe I was able to figure everything out and create a decent PowerPoint. After completing the process, I feel more confident in my ability to create wonderful PowerPoints.

If you wish to view my final product here it is:

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chapter Numero Uno: Blog Response

Chapter 1 of the book Personal Learning Networks by Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli talks about different aspects of a learning network. It explains the shifts that are taking place in the 21st century, and why these shift are important. The chapter defines what a learning network is and how to obtain one, but most importantly it covers the benefits a personal learning network can have. This is the topic my blog is going to cover, because I feel it is the most important. Sure, it’s nice to know what a personal learning network is and how to achieve one, but when it comes down to it, I want to know if making the important shifts to create a PLN is worthwhile. Basically, I want to know if it works and what effects it has. In the book, it lists seven different beneficial effects having a learning network can have. The three I’m going to cover are the three I found most enticing which include:
1. “Students are better prepared for life and work in the 21st century.”
2. “Classrooms are more engaging.”
3. “Instruction is more individualized.”

The first claimed effect a learning network provides is that it preps student for life in the 21st century.  Before I read this section I was hesitant to believe that a learning network could provide students skills for conquering life and the work industry, but as I read my thought process changed. The reason for the change is simple, our world really is beginning to be a technological empire and if you don’t become tech savvy now, you might as well move over and let others take your opportunities. Many jobs out there now involve the use of some sort of technology, like a computer, and by having students obtain a personal learning network their computer skills are increasing. A PLN would also provide students with one key element to be successful in life, and that is problem-solving.  Through constantly surfing the Internet for information, they would have to decide what is factual information from what is not, helping to build their critical analysis skills. Furthermore, by having a PLN students would need to search to answer their own questions, improving their problem-solving skills. Overall, I agree that a learning network would offer students the tools they need to be successful in life.

The second argument of why learning networks are beneficial is that the classroom becomes more engaging. I believe this is true because students would be able to connect with others around the world to learn the information they desire. For example, if a student was asked to do a history report, they could blog with or video chat with an expert on the topic they are researching. In addition, the use of technology would allow students to become more active learners, rather than passive learns as described in this article on the effects of technology in a classroom. Not only would students benefit from this, but so would teachers. Teachers would be able to exchange ideas with other educators to help provide the best learning experience they can for their students.

The last effect I personally found interesting, was that learning networks would make learning more individualized. This is important to me because everyone learns at different rates, and not everyone finds the same topics interesting. Also, students learn in many different ways, so by having a PLN a student would be able to access the appropriate information explained in a way that helps them understand best. Through learning networks, a student wouldn’t have to rely on just the textbook as a source of reference because they would have access to numerous information, via the internet, about the topic they are learning about to help make the information a little clearer and easier to understand.